Russia finds 'new bacteria' in Antarctic lake

Mar 07, 2013
Russian researchers pose for a picture after reaching the subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica on February 5, 2012. Russian scientists believe they have found a wholly new type of bacteria in the mysterious subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica.

Russian scientists believe they have found a wholly new type of bacteria in the mysterious subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Thursday.

The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of .

"After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the ," he said.

"We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.

The discovery comes from samples collected in an expedition in 2012 where a Russian team drilled down to the surface of Lake Vostok, which is believed to have been covered by ice for more than a million years but has kept its .

Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica and scientists have long wanted to study its eco-system. The Russian team last year drilled almost four kilometres (2.34 miles) to reach the lake and take the samples.

Bulat said that the interest surrounded one particular form of bacteria whose DNA was less than 86 percent similar to previously existing forms.

"In terms of work with DNA this is basically zero. A level of 90 percent usually means that the organism is unknown."

He said it was not even possible to find the genetic of the bacteria.

"If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars. But this is bacteria from Earth."

Bulat said that new samples of water would be taken from Lake Vostok during a new expedition in May.

"If we manage to find the same group of in this water we can say for sure that we have found new that exists in no database," Bulat said.

Exploring environments such as Lake Vostok allows scientists to discover what life forms can exist in the most and thus whether life could exist on some other bodies in the solar system.

There has long been excitement among some scientists that life theoretically could exist on Saturn's moon Enceladus and the Jupiter moon Europa as they are believed to have oceans, or large lakes, beneath their icy shells.

The possibility that the lake existed had first been suggested by a Soviet scientist in 1957. Scientific research drilling in the area started in 1989 and the lake's existence was confirmed only in 1996.

The drilling project is of major importance for the prestige of science in Russia and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was given a sample of water from last year when the expedition began.

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ian_j_allen
3.5 / 5 (26) Mar 07, 2013
July 2015

The unprecedented pandemic die-off of nearly all vertebrate organisms in the world's oceans, and the mysterious pink slime, have been attributed to a bacterium unknowingly captured in samples of Lake Vostok in early 2012. The escape vector is unknow and suspected to be a simple lapse in laboratory protocols, but it is of little difference. Life as we know it on earth is changing forever, and scientists are working around the clock to ensure the continued survival of our species, and so many others, in the arks. It is unknown when the ecosystem will return to equilibrium, or even if this equilibrium will be capable of supporting old-earth life.

Until then, follow the 3 laws. Conserve, conform, and cohabitate. Your life, and the lives of your ark-mates, depends on it.
Lurker2358
2.7 / 5 (16) Mar 07, 2013
Wow. 86% for the closest genetic match. That's like the difference between humans and worms or something.

The fact that it is so different from anything else living would suggest that it's progenitor or its descendants and cousins do not thrive in higher energy environments, and are therefore consumed or out competed when outside of it's native environment. So my "common sense" guess is that it most likely isn't a threat to normal environments, but we all know such intuitions aren't always right.

It could be worthless, or it could provide some new insight in medicine or biochemistry or manufacturing in synthetic biology, etc.

I doubt it would be the next pandemic for reasons above.
Maggnus
4.1 / 5 (14) Mar 07, 2013
Lol thats funny ian! When I first saw the picture of the group above, I was immediately reminded of the film The Thing where the Finnish (I think it was Finnish) group had their picture taken wiht their "discovery" before it got out.

Still, kudos to Russia, this is quite a discovery!
ian_j_allen
4.1 / 5 (15) Mar 07, 2013
Yeah it is exciting stuff. Just hope its not too exciting, you never know...

Also thanks to whoever ranked me a 1 for having a sense of humor about the issue. Being cautious is not immediately equivalent to being a crack-pot, and the possibility of contamination, although far-fetched as I have humorously described it, is a serious one which was taken into consideration before drilling began. Of course, they were more worried about getting the lake dirty, but the prospect of releasing previously isolated microbes into the greater antarctic environment is also of importance.

Also The Thing involves a Norwegian team ;)
Maggnus
2.6 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2013
Also The Thing involves a Norwegian team ;)


You're right! Nice call :)
El_Nose
3.9 / 5 (12) Mar 07, 2013
@ian i allan

the outbreak was later determined to have come from a vial of water given to Putin by the scientists. Reports are that it was given as a gift to the ambassador from Saudi Arabia, unfortunately his daughter drank it and later vomitted off the side of his yacht in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy. Likely the reason Europe was struck first and hardest by this plague.
kit_eason
5 / 5 (11) Mar 07, 2013
Cool, but 'bacteria' is a plural. You can't have a bacteria any more than you can have a trees. It's 'bacterium'.
rfw
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2013
Super Exciting! I can't wait to learn more from genomic analysis of this little critter & then see its strengths & capabilities adopted by synthetic biologists & applied towards the positive transformation and understanding of life in all its glorious possibilities!!!
Eric the Green
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2013
"Bacteria" is plural. "Bacterium" is singular. Why do so few people know this? Considering how important bacteria are this seems very odd.
Moebius
1 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2013
There had to be life before DNA. It may still be around.
nick_angevine
1 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2013
THE THING do not Touch This!!!!....if you do bring flame throwers plenty of them thanks sincerley the rest of the world
john_bowman_1420354
not rated yet Mar 07, 2013
At 86% (likely 16S rRNA gene sequence) the bacterium is diverged approximately at the family to class level. No data if the bacterial DNA derives from a cultured strain or a clone generated via PCR nor the phylum its in. Such findings are not that uncommon though increasingly rare thanks to fact that practically every ecosystem on Earth has been examined. Should be interesting to see the detailed findings after so much effort getting samples.
_traw_at
not rated yet Mar 08, 2013
Lifeforms beyond this lake system has had to spend millions of years building increasingly more sophisticated biological responses to threats to their existences. It is quite possible the Lake Vostock bacteria would be massively outgunned by the immune systems and so forth of even the simplest bacteria, viruses, and other living things elsewhere in the world.

The simplest way to test this would be to mix small samples of the new bacteria into a number of small samples of healthy soil from different geographical locations, and into seawater, in a tightly controlled laboratory.

antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2013
You can't have a bacteria any more than you can have a trees. It's 'bacterium'.

They are referring the species - not the individual. 'Bacterium' is correct in that sentence

(It's "type/species of bacterium" not "type/species of bacteria"). If they had used the word 'bacteria' in the sentence it would have been false, because they would then have been referring to several species of bacetria. But the die-off is attributed only to one species.)
LordKinyambiss
2 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2013
This is very interesting... At least we now know for certain that Aliens would most likely never look like Spock or other anthropomorphic renditions of E.T. All I can say now is one word, #EUROPA. This will definitely be the century wherein we find E.T and it will be a petri dish rather than a flying saucer.
blackwater
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2013
Yea but the real question is "what feeds on this bacteria and what in turn feeds on that?"
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2013
Yea but the real question is "what feeds on this bacteria and what in turn feeds on that?"

Maybe nothing.
Maybe it just dies of lethargy, and dissolves back into the sea, to have it's constituent molecules be consumed by it's own siblings.
kit_eason
not rated yet Mar 08, 2013
You can't have a bacteria any more than you can have a trees. It's 'bacterium'.

They are referring the species - not the individual. 'Bacterium' is correct in that sentence

(It's "type/species of bacterium" not "type/species of bacteria"). If they had used the word 'bacteria' in the sentence it would have been false, because they would then have been referring to several species of bacetria. But the die-off is attributed only to one species.)


They say 'contained a bacteria'. That's wrong.
Jonseer
2 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2013
You can't have a bacteria any more than you can have a trees. It's 'bacterium'.

They are referring the species - not the individual. 'Bacterium' is correct in that sentence

(It's "type/species of bacterium" not "type/species of bacteria"). If they had used the word 'bacteria' in the sentence it would have been false, because they would then have been referring to several species of bacetria. But the die-off is attributed only to one species.)


They say 'contained a bacteria'. That's wrong.


No you are wrong. The grammar you think supports your assumption is not as strict as you think it is.

Bacteria or Bacterium, singular or plural both work.

Also in the context of their analysis, you are never talking about a single bacterial cell.

Their results reflect the presence of many.
Morelli
1 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2013
The models of Matrix/DNA Theory suggests a key for decoding this new DNA. The specific environment worked as a catalyst, lowing the speed of reactions, then, this DNA must have informations (genes)relative to functions 1,2 and a little bit of 3,of LUCA (the Last universal Common Ancestor) as pictured by Matrix/DNA Theory. It is important to identify these genes, its functions, this bacterium can be used as symbiotic by human body performing good functions.
Morelli
1 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2013
Yea but the real question is "what feeds on this bacteria and what in turn feeds on that?"


That's easy answer for Matrix/DNA Theory: they must search for food any matter containing carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and Fluor. And if there are predators, they must have informations about Function 4,accordingly to our models of natural systems.
The species composing the food chain mimics the vital cycle process. So, the teenager's body is the predator of its own shape as child and is the prey of its own shape as adult. But you need to know Matrix/DNA for understanding this odd things...
alfie_null
not rated yet Mar 09, 2013
Smaller ecology, simpler organisms. Regarding concern for contamination, stuff from our world is likely to be pathogenic to species in Lake Vostok, not the other way around.
abha_khadar
not rated yet Mar 12, 2013
July 2015

The unprecedented pandemic die-off of nearly all vertebrate organisms in the world's oceans, and the mysterious pink slime, have been attributed to a bacterium unknowingly captured in samples of Lake Vostok in early 2012. The escape vector is unknow and suspected to be a simple lapse in laboratory protocols, but it is of little difference. Life as we know it on earth is changing forever, and scientists are working around the clock to ensure the continued survival of our species, and so many others, in the arks. It is unknown when the ecosystem will return to equilibrium, or even if this equilibrium will be capable of supporting old-earth life.

Until then, follow the 3 laws. Conserve, conform, and cohabitate. Your life, and the lives of your ark-mates, depends on it.

Tausch
1 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2013
Fermi Paradox solved.
Earth was quarantined.

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